Saturday, 4 May 2019

A Taste Of Pilgrimage in Canterbury

Pilgrimage to Canterbury in spring easter day trip
 
As The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer go, April is the time for a pilgrimage to the historic city in Kent - and to get a bit of pilgrimage taste, I followed in the steps of The Tales and traveled to medieval Canterbury over the Easter weekend. 

This cultural highly important town is not just a spiritual centre of pilgrimage but has also literary roots. Playwriter Christopher Marlowe was born and raised here and the newly built theatre has been named after him. But there's lots more to see and explore in this historic market place which oozes culture from every corner. Once you roam its cobbled streets, you'll notice how full of tradition, ancient tales, and character Canterbury is.  

Getting To Canterbury


The town has two stations, East and West, and is, therefore, very accessible. The slow trains go hourly from London Victoria and bring you to Canterbury East in under 90mins. From the East station, you'll enter the city via the Roman stone wall which holds some impressive views over the Cathedral. If you prefer a faster route, the train goes from Canterbury West straight to St Pancras via Stratford International. A return will cost around £20 - so perfect for a little day trip!

side street in canterbury with view on canterbury cathedral

What To Do in Canterbury


When in Canterbury, you can't miss visiting the Cathedral. Entering the Cathedral through the impressive Christchurch Gate alone is an unforgettable experience in itself. It is the centre for many pilgrims, as many travel to the shrine of Sir Thomas Beckett. The former archbishop of Canterbury was murdered here in 1170 after he stood up to King Henry's reformation. He has become a martyr and saint recognised by both, the Anglican and Catholic Church. Hence why there are strong connections to the Vatican in Rome. The Cathedral is currently under construction from the outside but is still as stunning from the inside. There's also a secret little herb garden at the back of the building which is surrounded by former servant barracks and remains of ancient ruins. Queues to see this magnificent place get very long, so my advice is to get to Canterbury as early as possible. Entry tickets cost £13.

kate-olfans-canterbury cathedral day tour
zoltan-tasi-canterbury cathedral arched courtyard

To underline the importance of the city as a holy place and its connection to Rome, Canterbury marks the starting point of the nearly forgotten Via Francigena - a cultural trail that leads from England over the Channel via France and Switzerland to Rome. Next to the Camino network in Spain, this route is Europe's most significant religious path. The marking stone is placed in the Cathedral's front yard and if you keep your eyes open, you'll notice the Via Francigena signposts all around town leading the way to Rome.

Canterbury Cathedral hidden garden and ancient ruins

Once you've visited the Cathedral, you can stroll along the lively market high street. It's nothing special but a nice way to experience the heart of town. Literally, everyone was out and about on this fine Spring weekend when I visited. The cafes were full, people enjoyed their first ice cream of the year or played Easter Egg hunts in the parks.  

watching spring coming to life in canterbury
west gate park in canterbury during the easter weekend

Near the West Gate is a lovely park where you can spend a few hours relaxing and basking in the warm spring sun. Afterward, I headed back to the Gate and strolled along St Dunstans Street which is the main road leading to Canterbury West station. The street is seamed with little restaurants and cosy brunch spots. I found a seat outside of The Refectory and enjoyed a late brunch with a refreshing homemade mango iced tea and pancakes before heading back to London.

pancakes from the refinery in canterbury
medieval streets in canterbury in spring

Although I've been to Canterbury many, many years ago, I truly enjoyed coming back to it. My mini-pilgrimage was a nice break away from London and has given me some motivation to pick up my plans for hiking the pilgrimage Camino in Spain. I'm definitely inspired and will look into some research and who knows, maybe there's the chance later this year to actually do it?!?

Thanks so much for reading.
Till next time,
Carolin

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